Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
The Quint’s compilation of the best weekend reads.
1. Across the Aisle: Summer of 2014 to Autumn of 2017
In his column in The Indian Express, P Chidambaram lists five discernible reasons why the government is unable to address the causes of economic slowdown in India. He argues that an absence of a deliberative decision making in the BJP government, lack of 'bench strength' and failure to build credible economic policy team are some of the reasons for the government's lack of response.
The autumn of 2017 presents a bleak picture. Economic growth decelerated to 5.7 per cent in April-June 2017; CAD climbed up to 2.4 per cent in that quarter; industrial productions shrunk by 0.17 per cent in June and grew by a paltry 1.2 per cent in July; and an estimated 1.5 million jobs were lost between January and April 2017.How did we go from the great expectations of the summer of 2014 to the disappointing autumn of 2017?
2. Dear FM, Yashwant Sinha Is Wrong So Don't Be Tempted by a Fiscal Quick-Fix
Commenting on Yashwant Sinha's criticism of the Indian economy, Swaminathan Aiyar in his column 'Swaminomics' in The Times of India warns the Finance Minister against the idea of a fiscal boost to address the current economic situation. He argues that India needs deep structural reforms and not a "crash spending package."
Nobody should mistake Yashwant Sinha’s criticisms as a call for a fiscal boost. He was always a fiscal hawk, convinced (quite rightly) that the long-term gains of prudence vastly outweighed the short-term gains of a spending spree. He worries about the inspector raj that is returning with GST paperwork and a huge expansion of income tax investigations. His warnings have a core of truth: GST paperwork is monstrously tough for small companies, and the notion that our notoriously corrupt income tax can become the standard-bearers of tax honesty is bound to evoke laughter. Yet both GST and improved tax compliance are essential long-term goals, despite short-term costs.
3. Make in India Is Looking More and More Like a Bad Joke
Writing for the Times of India, Abheek Barman critically examines the BJP government's 'Make in India' scheme and tears apart assumptions made about Indian growth with examples from medical R&D, pharmaceutical, electric products and GE's investment to make diesel-electric locomotives.
Against government claims that 96% of Bihar villages are electrified, a 2015 survey found only 8% of households get electricity for 20 hours a day. A staggering 80% of homes don’t use electricity for lighting, but get by with kerosene lamps. An incensed GE wants India to pay it Rs 1,300 crore in compensation. Such irony: our loss-making, cash-poor railways will now pay to cancel MII investments. What is New Delhi smoking?
4. Out of My Mind: Dynasty Disease
Writing for The Indian Express, Meghnad Desai revisits the history of the Congress party and specifically analyses events which transformed it into a "dynastic" party. In the light of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi's comments on dynasty in Berkeley, he argues that the decline of the Congress party can be attributed to its dynastic structure.
If he had known a bit more about the history of his own party, Rahul Gandhi would have said that the Congress became a dynastic party by accident. It was the sudden and unexpected death of Lal Bahadur Shastri in January 1966 which panicked the Congress leadership — the Syndicate as they were called — into choosing Indira Gandhi. She was not the obvious choice. Morarji Desai was senior but he was too uncorrupt for the Syndicate. K Kamaraj ruled himself out saying, ‘No Hindi, No English, how can I be prime minister?’ Just six months previously, Indira Gandhi had wanted to be high commissioner to the UK to be close to her sons who were in England. She did not see herself as leading India.
5. An Illusion of an India-Pakistan Confrontation at the UN General Assembly
In his column in the Hindustan Times, Chanakya analyses India and Pakistan's speeches at the General Assembly in the UN and argues that a certain ambivalence has set in India-Pakistan relations where the “illusion of a peace process has been replaced with the illusion of confrontation.”
Modi is seen as among the most politically powerful heads of government in the world and India is wooed as a policy leader in everything from climate change to maritime security. If Indian prime ministers seem to travel too much these days, it is in large part because there is so much greater demand for them than in the past. Pakistan, on the other hand, is remarkably friendless these days. The Persian Gulf monarchies, including Saudi Arabia, have soured of Islamabad having discovered that Pakistan was happy to take its money until actually asked to fight for these same countries. The United States has a president, Donald Trump, who, for all his other faults, is prepared to publicly call Pakistan a dishonest, two-faced spade.
6. Fifth Column: Relentless Neglect
Writing for The Indian Express in her column 'Fifth Column', Tavleen Singh writes about the bureaucratic hurdles she faced when she visited a Child Welfare Committee in Mumbai with the purpose of placing two street children in a private children’s home run by a Parsi trust, and through her experience questions the inefficiency of BJP government in Maharashtra and other states to provide for secure welfare homes
There is a BJP government in Maharashtra, so why has there been no ‘parivartan’ in the attitude of CWC officials or in conditions in their children’s home? There are BJP governments now in most of our big states, so why do we not see better State schools, hospitals and welfare homes? Why do we not see serious efforts to rectify bad laws and policies made by the Sonia-Manmohan government that, on the pretence of giving people ‘rights-based governance’, actually absolved the State of its most fundamental responsibilities? Why is so useless a law as the Right to Education still with us? Why are the vast resources invested annually in MGNREGA not being spent on creating real jobs? Why are such simple solutions to urban poverty as soup kitchens and homeless shelters not even being discussed?
7. Why Indians Don't Give a Toss About Their Own Safety
Writing in The Times of India, Aakar Patel argues that the victims of the stampede at the Elphinstone Road station in Mumbai were the "victims of a culture where safety is disregarded by Indians across class."
In a culture where there is no discipline, disorder can turn lethal quite easily in the wrong circumstances. The West is not unfamiliar with a large crowd in a closed space, like a stadium or arena or hall. The fact that stampedes happen far more frequently in our parts is for a reason. To blame Piyush Goyal or Western Railways for the terrible happening is unfair. To assume that another bridge, had it been built, would guarantee that people would not die in such events is to not be in touch with reality
8. Gained in Translation: The Relevance of Gandhi
Tamil writer Devibharathi Rajasekharan writes in The Indian Express about his journey of rediscovering Gandhi amidst violence and intolerance in contemporary India. He argues that it's time to let go of a "almost superstitious natural order" which seeks Mahatma to change the direction in which India is headed
I did not have to work hard to identify Gandhi as a leader who could have valiantly walked on the ashes of this history. It needn’t be the spiritual belief that a Mahatma would appear when humankind is caught in an inexplicable web of oppression. But history has evidence to show it as a natural order. Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is such evidence. He could be kept on a par with Jesus and Buddha. He confronted with love the fire of hatred burning a society divided by language, caste and race. He turned simple, ancient terms like truth, love and mercy into powerful weapons. He was an ordinary man who had profound understanding of the fact that ahimsa was a natural characteristic of human beings.
9. Lack of Privacy and Trivial Views: Why Twitter Isn't Quite My Character
Twitter may be taking over people's lives, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. Writing in his column in the Hindustan Times, Karan Thapar explains that the lack of characters and the fact that he doesn't have opinions on all issues make him wary of joining the micro blogging platform
The second problem is a consequence of what often happens after you’ve tweeted. The twitter universe feels the need to either challenge what you’ve said or use it to justify situations you simply never had in mind. Before you know it you’re drawn into a febrile exchange of rebuttal and reconfirmation that often results in a dogfight. Now, what may have begun as the expression of a personal opinion ends up with your championing a position and becoming the target of all those who disagree with it and, sometimes, wish to demonise it. At this point your messages start to become combative. And because you’re defending yourself your language becomes sharp, possibly abusive and, occasionally, even indefensible.
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